We evaluated the usefulness of FDG-PET for the detection of thyroid tumours and the differentiation between benign and malignant tumours. The subjects consisted of 5 normal volunteers and 22 patients, including 3 with follicular adenoma, 16 with papillary carcinoma and 3 with follicular carcinoma. The results were then evaluated both visually and semi-quantitatively using the standardized uptake value (SUV). All 22 tumours were seen as areas of high FDG uptake. FDG uptake in the normal thyroid gland, follicular adenoma, papillary carcinoma and follicular carcinoma was 1.0 ± 0.2, 2.1 ± 0.4, 4.7 ± 3.2 and 4.6 ± 2.9, respectively. Significant differences were observed between papillary carcinoma and both follicular adenoma (P < 0.05) and the normal thyroid gland (P < 0.001), and between follicular adenoma and the normal thyroid gland (P < 0.001). For the diagnosis of carcinoma, 58% sensitivity, 100% specificity and 73% accuracy were obtained when the highest FDG uptake value in adenoma was taken as the threshold. Our results thus indicate that high FDG uptake in a thyroid tumour suggests malignancy even though low levels of FDG uptake cannot completely rule out malignancy.